The Evil that Men Do Lives on

As Marc Anthony observed about Julius Caesar  in Shakespeare’s play:

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.

By such reckless acts as canceling Obama’s orders regulating the use of coal by power plants and banning pollution of streams by coal mining waste, he claims to be creating jobs for miners.
And it won’t matter what Donald Trump does now, he will be remembered for his war on the environment. Trump will forever be the anti-environment president, the dolt who mindlessly undid the measures that President Obama carefully initiated to stave off catastrophic climate change.
As usual, Trump is putting on a show to impress the uninformed.

But those jobs won’t be coming back. Cheap natural gas and the development of clean-energy technology have made coal too expensive, anyway.

So it won’t matter that Trump has turned coal burners loose to pollute the air we breathe. It won’t matter that he has opened federal lands to coal mining leases. It won’t matter that he will allow coal mines to dump waste in our drinking water.

At least, it won’t matter as far as jobs are concerned.

But it will matter to the people who must breathe the air on this planet.

When America burns coal, the air is polluted not only in this country but globally. Remember the acid rain that plagued Canada a half century or so ago?

Obama wisely led a global effort to curb the atmospheric pollution that contributes to global warming, triggering hazardous climate change and flooding coastal communities.

Trump has set out to undo Obama’s work. The consequences of this evil agenda will ravage the earth long after Trump is gone.

Trump’s war on the environment

 

Is it News when a Million Children Starve?

It isn’t making much of a splash in the news we get here in Central Florida, but once again famine is ravaging the African continent.

People are starving.

Fellow human beings. Including more than a million children. Accidents of a tragically inefficient global economy, dying a  horrible, slow, torturous death.

And yesterday I brought home left-over lobster for a possum that lives under the oak tree by the garage. Sandra and I were treated to lunch at the Red Lobster by close (and loving)relatives because it was my birthday. My 83rd.

Of course there’s no way to get the food we throw away in America to the starving millions in other parts of the world, But we could at least care.

I am not hearing much about this latest African famine. Our news is obsessed with Trump.

Did he get he get help from the Russians in winning the US presidency?

Did his lackeys collude with Putin’s lackeys?

Can he talk the dolts in Congress into pursuing his evil agenda – repealing Obamacare and slashing foreign aid, for example?

Just who are his international associates and how toxic are they?

Yes. these are perilous times in America.

But can we pause for a while in mourning our own misfortune to see what can be done to alleviate the abject misery in Africa?

More on the famine

What Her Majesty is doing

 

No Evidence + Alternative Facts = Libel

Back in my news reporting days, we were always on guard against libeling someone we wrote about. We were taught to check our facts before writing a story.

It wasn’t just the fear of being dragged into court and fined – or even sentenced to prison. We believed we had to protect our publication’s credibility as a reliable news source.

Now, that kind of caution seems quaintly old-fashioned.

The President of the United States tweets random accusations based on conspiracy theories concocted by the far-right propaganda machine. And his PR people explain he was relying on “alternative facts.”

He even goes so far as to accuse former President Obama of “wiretapping” his phone, basing his outlandish accusation on right-wing “news” reports.

His evidence? There is no evidence because it isn’t true.

Committees in both the House and the Senate wasted their time looking for evidence to back up Trump’s charge. Of course they found nothing.

In the process, Trump falsely implicated British intelligence officials, sparking an international incident.

It’s not just the new president. The right-wing media have become increasingly bizarre, churning out wild surmise and  fabricated charges under the guise of “news.”

Even in this no-holds-barred environment, Fox News star Sean Hannity (at right) is managing to raise eyebrows. He suggests the Hawaii judge who ruled against Trump’s most recent travel ban must have smoked marijuana and done “even a little bit of blow” with former President Obama.

Hannity cited no evidence, of course. He was just speculating, you see.  After all, Judge Derrick Watson graduated from Harvard Law School at the same time as Obama, so why wouldn’t he have done drugs with the former president?

Don’t you think that question should be answered in court? Barack Obama is now a private citizen, so he might have grounds for a lawsuit. As might Judge Watson.

It’s time to find out what’s permissible in today’s “news” environment. Past time.

Trump’s wiretapping charge

More on Hannity’s smear

 

Trump, the Global Oligarch

I’m not sure why but the media always refer to rich Russian and Ukrainian political bosses as “oligarchs.” So when do we start giving Donald Trump the same title?

If you look up “oligarchy,” you will find it means government by the rich. And if ever there was a true believer in government by the rich, it’s Trump. Not just government by the rich but for the rich.

His cabinet is made up mainly of billionaires. His budget – and tax reform – proposals siphon money away from the poor to further enrich the wealthy. And he is touting a Republican health insurance do-over that would give the rich a tax break while leaving millions of poor Americans uninsured.

Trump might even be described as a Russian oligarch. After all, a lot of Russian rubles have passed through his hands. But he apparently handled a lot of suspect American dollars, too. His Taj Mahal casino, for example, paid $10 million to settle money laundering charges a couple of years ago.

An article in the Financial Times summed up his murky past this way:

Over the years (Trump) has assembled an eclectic collection of backers and collaborators. Some had checkered pasts, with links to organized crime or fraud schemes.

The article accused Trump of having “multiple ties to an alleged international money laundering network.”

These accusations were published not only in the Financial Times but in various other media outlets. The Washington Examiner, for example, reported::

His (Trump’s) ties to the mob have been documented by the New York Times, BBC, and other news organizations, and largely revolve around his involvement in a money-laundering scheme dating to the 1990s.

So, we might describe him as a global oligarch.

I’m not sure what that term implies but I don’t believe it’s anything good.

What the Financial Times found

The Examiner article

 

There’s No “Good Citizen” Gene, Mr. King

Iowa Congressman Steve King set off a tweet storm with his openly racist claim that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

King was supporting Dutch politician Geert Wilder, (depicted at upper right) who wants to sfop Muslim immigration, shut down mosques and ban the Koran in his country.

King’s comments sparked widespread outrage, of course. But some Americans are applauding him.

It’s sad that we should be having this discussion nearly two decades into the 21st Century.  But obviously the question is still not settled. Are some “races” superior to others? And are the “superior races” lighter skinned and bluer eyed?

Sounds absurd, doesn’t it?

But with Donald Trump in the White House and “nationalists” gaining popularity throughout Europe, we browner-eyed people are once again becoming fair game for the eugenics crowd. Especially when we dare to immigrate to a country where paler people predominate.

Of course, the premise of a master race is mischievous nonsense. Throughout history, great civilizations have been built by human beings of varying ethnicity.

Sorry, Congressman King, but you can build a fine civilization with somebody else’s babies. Some societies – the Canadians for example – have welcomed diversity and are the better for it.

There are myriad traits in our human DNA. Some produce long legs, others produce short fingers. But there’s no gene that produces a better citizen.

More on King’s tweet

 

What Does Bannon Have that I Don’t?

I’ve been writing this blog for at least 10 years and nobody has invited me to help run the country. What do some bloggers have that I don’t, anyway?

Steve Bannon, for example. Here’s a blogger with outlandish ideas who may be the most powerful person in America today. And what has he done to achieve this status? He ran a web site.

And what a web site!

It gave America’s festering underbelly a political megaphone, promoting the doctrines of morally sick people  – from xenophobes and nihilists to misogynists and white supremacists.

He gave them a slick label, the Alt Right. And he dressed up their putrid notions in pseudointellectual arguments.

Did this guy have a journalistic background? Nothing of the kind.

He is a Navy veteran, a former investment banker and the producer of right-wing propaganda movies. His “documentaries” glorified such “conservative icons” as Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman, while trashing the Clintons.

It seems that’s the formula for success in today’s blogosphere – glorify the right-wing crazies and trash the good guys.

That’s Bannon’s formula, anyway. And he managed to impress America’s new president.

Trump brought Bannon on board to salvage his floundering campaign, and when he won, he brought Bannon to the White House as his adviser and confidante.

They are strange bedfellows, Trump and Bannon. Trump is a rogue intent on making money through fair means or foul. Bannon is an ideologue who admires Lenin and advocates the destruction of existing societies to create one more to his liking.

To me, it’s like watching a scorpion and a tarantula trapped in a glass bottle. One – or both – will surely fail to survive.

Will Trump use Bannon’s vile base as long as he finds it helpful and then throw the bum out?

Or will Bannon succeed in destroying society – including Trump’s gilded empire?

On second thought, I wouldn’t want to be invited to help run this country at this time.  Would you?

More on Bannon

 

Surprise! We’re Not Equal under the Law.

I’m sure you know the rich can buy their way out of trouble – even trouble with the law. They have the money to hire the best lawyers and prepare the most effective defenses, for one thing.

But did you know they can buy an easier life even when they get sentenced to jail?

Research by the Marshall Project and the Los Angeles Times has revealed the existence of 26 “boutique” prisons in Southern California. These institutions cater to convicted felons who can afford to pay a premium to avoid the grim conditions of regular prisons.

According to the researchers, boutique prisons exist throughout America, not just in California.

I am not surprised.

My encounters with the criminal justice system during my time as a reporter in Florida left me with no illusions about “equality under the law.”

Once, when I went to interview a Pasco County commissioner who had been convicted of bribery, I found he wasn’t housed in the regular prison but at the fire station just outside its walls. He was assigned to maintain the fire engine – in case it ever had to be used.

Then there was the Palm Harbor banker convicted of money laundering. He was at a federal prison in Tampa, and on weekends his chauffeur would come and pick him up. He spent the weekends at his mansion and aboard his yacht.

Criminal justice in America has many shades of gray. You don’t just go to prison. You go to various kinds of prison, often depending on the luck of the draw.

And the punishment you get depends on the judge who gets your case.  If the judge happens to be a member of your yacht club, for example,I bet you’ll get a more sympathetic hearing.

Look it’s no accident that the vast majority of prison inmates are poor and non-white. It’s no accident that the poor are being sentenced to jail when they can’t pay their traffic tickets. It’s no accident that debtors are being jailed as they used to be in the days of Charles Dickens.

Every day in America the rich get more breaks and the poor get treated worse. And as long as the voters allow these conditions to persist, we’ll just have to live with them, I suppose

More about the report

 

Trump’s Worldwide Web of Deception

I just read that China has approved dozens of Trump trademarks, and I wonder how this will affect his policy toward the Chinese. I’m sure you know how Trump has criticized China for stealing American jobs, manipulating its currency and on and on.

Obviously, he is just talking when he rants against China because he has been taking advantage of their low wages for years, making a variety of goods over there to ship into the US.

So what is his real China policy?

I suppose what he says will depend on his mood of the moment. But what he does will depend on his business interests, which will now include restaurants, advertising and construction, in addition to manufacturing.

I don’t expect the US to start a war over the South China Sea while Trump is president, for example.

And I imagine China’s vast American interests will make the Chinese think twice before attacking us. They wouldn’t want to blow up property they own.

Trump has business dealings all over the world, and a lot of his projects depend on government approvals.

I suspect this is what drives his foreign policy. His rants and raves are just empty rhetoric designed to keep his base frothing at the mouth (and keep the media guessing).

You would think the media would know this and ignore his tweets. But I guess the tweets provide entertainment for the masses so they build media audiences.

While you and I are obliged to endure the tweets however, we don’t have to give them credence. Nearly everything Trump says is a lie, often designed to deflect attention from the real issues that plague his presidency.

That Russian connection, for example. Let’s see how he tweets his way out of that one.

More on the trademarks

More on the Russian connection

 

The Phone Rings but Nobody’s There

Every once in a while, our phone rings and when we answer there’s nobody on the line.

I’ve wondered what was going on. Are burglars checking to see if anyone’s home perhaps?

Now I know. It’s a scam. Another of the multitude of scams that plague our phones.

You may have had calls from “Windows technical department” warning you that your PC is in trouble. And if you fell for the scam and let the rogues get remote control of your computer, you ended up paying more than $200 to clear errors in your log.

And you may have had one of those urgent calls to “Grandpa,” supposedly seeking cash for a grandchild in trouble with the law.

Then there are the calls announcing you’ve won some lottery and urging you to send money to pay the taxes or whatever.

And that nice sounding lady, who keeps offering to lower the interest on your credit card debt   And those “free” cruises, home security systems and so on… Scams, all of them.

But the silent-phone scam is different. To fall for it, you have to be proactive. According to an article in Yahoo News this morning, you have to call the number back to get hooked.

The article explains:

These calls are likely part of what is commonly known as the “473 Scam,” “Ring and Run Scam,” or “One Ring Scam,” and the numbers displayed on your caller ID or sent in a text message are likely premium numbers. You will be charged–sometimes quite a bundle–for any calls that you make, or text messages that you send, to them.

The callers are counting on natural human curiosity to prompt you to call back. As for me, I’ve never been that curious. And I wouldn’t know how to call back (or text) anyway. I haven’t kept up with the new technology.

But according to the article, the callers sometime use such elaborate ruses as muffled cries for help or similar sound effects.

Thankfully, we haven’t had any of those calls. That’s the kind of ruse I might  fall for – if I hadn’t read the article.

Click for the article.

More phone scams

 

Conservative Healthcare? Divide and Rule!

Would someone explain to me what “conservative” health care means?  Is it taking one aspirin instead of two and writing a note to your doctor in the morning (instead of phoning)?

I would think that healthcare means doing everything possible to make the sick well and keep the well from getting sick. Conservative healthcare must mean doing only some of the necessary things.

And that’s what the Republicans are proposing as they set out to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The House of Representatives has come up with a plan that keeps some of Obamacare’s provisions but abandons others, notably the expansion of Medicaid.

The plan is being opposed by Republican senators who want to get government completely out of the health insurance business, leaving millions of Americans to fend for themselves – or die trying.

But, obviously, Republican members of the House, the protests of their constituents still ringing in their ears, realize this would be political suicide. They’re looking for ways to pare down Obamacare without paying the price at the polls.

By still requiring insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions and allowing parents to keep adult children on their policies, the Republicans are currying favor with some Obamacare beneficiaries.

But they are a lot less considerate of others. The proposed cuts to Medicaid, for example, would punish society’s most vulnerable. They have no clout in Congress. So they’re fair game.

This thinking is also reflected in proposed tax credits that would give older and wealthier folks significantly more financial help than the young and poor.

It’s the familiar Republican strategy to divide and rule, setting the interests of some Americans against the interests of others.

Will they succeed? Not if the American people pull together for once, rejecting the tawdry concessions to some while others  endure even more suffering.

Protests against this shameless political ploy should be even louder than before.

United we stand, folks. Divided we fall.

Republican proposals